[Microbiology] Re: Do bacteria cause nasal mucus to smell bad?

John Gentile via microbio%40net.bio.net (by yjgent from nospamcox.net)
Thu Sep 3 19:27:04 EST 2009

On 2009-09-02 23:19:23 -0400, GreenXenon <glucegen1x from gmail.com> said:

> Hi:
> Are there any bacteria that feed on nasal mucus? If so, do they
> produce any colors and odors as a resulting of feeding on the mucus?
> Will it smell like heated stale Swiss cheese? What color? When
> bacteria feed on mucus, do they produce any slimy substances of their
> own? Also, if mucus passes through the colon, will the fecal bacteria
> feed on it?
> Thanks
> P.S. These are not homework questions. These are questions of my own
> interest.

Most people do not realize that there are more bacterial cells in and 
on our bodies than there are human cells. There is a large population 
of bacteria that exist in all the mucus cavities, most of which are 
there that are a benefit to the host (you). But you can take these same 
bacteria and get them into an area where they do not usually belong and 
you may then have an infection.

Usually if you have a smelly, pus & mucus discharge in the nasal 
cavities it is coming from one of the nasal sinuses. Sometimes a sinus 
can be blocked by swelling from a virus or an allergy and the normal 
mucus flow is backed up allowing the trapped bacteria to multiply and 
cause an immune reaction of pus cells to converge and try to kill the 

If you are having these kinds of symptoms you should see a doctor - 
most primary care docs can easily look into your nasal cavity and 
identify the problem and prescribe the correct treatment. The last time 
I had a bout of sinusitis they gave me an antibiotic (to kill the 
bacteria) and a decongestant (to open the clogged passages). I can't 
tell from your description what kind of bacteria you are talking about 
- there are hundreds of kinds of bacteria that we all live with! To 
identify it would take a complete culture workup from the infected 
site. It is often difficult to separate the "normal" bacteria from the 
"infectious" bacteria, but that is what our real job is all about.

John Gentile MS, M(ASCP)
Laboratory Information Mgr.
VA Medical Center
Providence, RI 
yjgent from cox.net

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